From Mogadishu to the homefront: Delta Force vet fights for his brothers and their families

Eye on Veterans
March 22, 2019 - 10:33 am
Retired Army Delta Force Operator Tom Satterly co-founder of All Secure Foundation

Photos courtesy All Secure Foundation

With 25 years in the Army, 20 of them spent in the elite SFOD-D (aka Delta Force) retired Command Sergeant Major Tom Satterly has seen just about everything when it comes to warfare. The Battle of Mogadishu, made famous by the book and film Black Hawk Down, was his first deployment with Delta and over the next two decades he operated on battlefields across the globe. 

He has numerous awards and decorations to show for his service. In all the obvious ways he was a prime example of what a soldier, and an operator, should be. But the missions that earned those awards and decorations, and the inability to even discuss them, took an enormous toll on him and his brothers in arms.

"Everybody in the unit felt the same way," Tom says. "They all had the same fears, but we all hid it from each other. So we're all suffering silently, but we're acting like we know exactly what we're doing, and we're very proud of it. We're strong. But inside? It's that thing that crumbles your soul until you get to actually reach out and talk. It's like that first person on the dancefloor syndrome, y'know? It's empty until one person finally gets out there, then another, and it grows. Everybody's dancing."

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As leaders do, Satterly wanted to set the example and be the first one on that dance floor. That's why he and his wife Jen founded All Secure Foundation, a non-profit that aims to help Special Operations vets, and their families, overcome the less visible wounds of war. The foundation hosts events such as retreats and marriage workshops, as well as providing free information, and health advice via their website and social media.

It's all done in the interest of improving the lives of those who saw nearly constant combat in their military careers. In essence, Tom says, to function in the SpecOps world requires the operator to dehumanize the enemy. That's something he believes can't be compartmentalized to the battlefield, which leads to self-destructive behavior at home.

"I hate to say it, you become a bad person, you become a different person. So what we do is we bring you back to who you were before," Tom says of All Secure's mission "We show you how to find who you were before, get back to that normal behavior that most humans enjoy when they hang around each other."

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But fixing the operator is only part of All Secure's mission and process. Many of them have families that deal with their struggles that the Satterlys say are just as important but are too often ignored. 

"We know that children of combat veterans have a higher suicide rate, about 10% higher than civilian kids," Jen says. "And we know that spouses who have someone in the house suffering from post-traumatic stress are being tested with post-traumatic stress of their own."

While politicians debate over how best to help veterans, and numerous bills work through the legislative process, the Satterlys say the needs of these families can't wait. Anyone who sees helping veterans as solely the responsibility of the government is flat out wrong.

"It's critical that we address it," Jen says. "Because this isn't just a political or military issue, this is a humanitarian issue. You've got people who are affected by war probably living in your neighborhood, or down the street, or working with you."

RELATED: He was headed for prison, but became a Navy SEAL instead

The Satterlys say that they are looking into expanding All Secure Foundation beyond the current primary focus of the SpecOps. In the immediate future, they will be expanding their reach via the upcoming book All Secure, which Tom says is a memoir that focuses mainly on his struggles and his fight to overcome them, not on battlefield heroics.

"It's not a book about the secrets of Delta, or the secrets of special ops and all the missions," Tom says. "A little bit is in there for the action so people will read it, but really, like Jen likes to say, we're hiding the green beans in the brownies. It's delicious, but you're still getting something out of it."

You can hear the full interview with Tom & Jen Satterly below.

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